On the Burdens of Vulnerability and the Apathy of Politeness

We live in an age of social media and loneliness.

We compare our real lives with the reel lives of others, online — a subtle but important distinction. We all know the effects of this: melancholy, FOMO, loneliness, low self esteem, etc.

And the common advice is that we need to be vulnerable, we need to put ourselves out there more. We need to overcome those feelings and reach out to people when we need help. Except, doesn’t something seem off about that?

It’s already hard to be vulnerable. Really hard. Even when you’re sitting there having a drink with your best friend. But the people we’re supposed be vulnerable to appear to be busy and to not need need us… based on their social media profiles at least.

So yeah, that shit just ain’t happening.

Except those people suffer with the same feelings. They’re isolated on their sad little island as well.

Sure, we hang out in person or chat on the phone or instant message. But those interactions are all surface level because we think the other person wouldn’t care about our problems. And they think we wouldn’t care about theirs.

But why must the entire burden be on the person who is being vulnerable? Don’t we all have a responsibility to care about our fellow humans?

We don’t ask questions because we don’t want to be rude. We don’t want to stick our noses in others’ personal business.

But ultimately, we don’t ask because we don’t care. We’d rather be viewed as polite and respectful than know how our friends feel.

I say ask. Take some of that burden off of others and give them a chance to be vulnerable. Even give them a chance to tell you it’s none of your business. You’ll be surprised how often people choose the former.

And if they tell you that they’d rather not talk about it, then do the nice thing and don’t pressure them.

But at least care enough to ask. We can’t let our politeness become apathy.

January 1, 2022